In the December/January issue of Phi Delta Kappan, Michael Reichert and Richard Hawley explore effective teaching practices for reaching boys. In their study, they looked for common characteristics of effective practice reported by a large sample of teachers and boys. Teachers were asked to recount the story of an effective practice they have used and male students were asked to tell “the story of a class experience that stood out as being especially memorable.” Schools from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, South Africa and Australia participated in the study.
Reichert and Hawley note the following:
Boys are relational learners.
Teachers who experience success with boys emphasize the relational dimension of teaching, “regardless of the subject”. The boys Reichert and Hawley interviewed recognized and acknowledged when a teacher was open “to what interested, excited, and worried them.”
Boys elicit the kinds of teaching they need.
If either the content or the way it is conveyed to boys is not ‘right’ boys will disengage. As Reichert and Hawley explain, “boys will engage in either passive inattention or diverting disruption.” The teacher will know when he/she has made the proper adjustments when “better engagement, sustained effort and mastery on the boys’ part” is evident.
Lessons must have an element that interests students and holds that interest. Examples include unexpected surprise, kinesthetic activities or competition.
What can we do in Avon Maitland?
Continue to focus on knowing the learner through individualized conversations with students.
Use class profiles, interest surveys and student feedback when designing lessons and activities.
Create fluid and flexible lessons that allow us to make the proper adjustments when we see that students are not engaged rather than expect students to conform to a specific teacher’s prescribed approach.
Recognize that student interests and readiness may vary from semester to semester and from class to class.
Differentiate instruction based on student readiness and interest.
In order for this to happen, the teacher must be an empathetic, reflective practitioner and willing to take risks and try new teaching and learning strategies.